Swiss painter Eugène Burnand renders the confusion and hope of Peter and John’s first Easter morning with such poignancy.
They’d learned of the resurrection from some women friends who’d been told by an angel, and particularly from Mary Magdalene, told by the risen Christ himself, to tell them. And then they ran to see that tomb. They wouldn’t have run if they hadn’t been told.
And so the message “the Lord is risen” goes on even to today, and we who believe it are still sent on mission.
Sometimes we do it well, even under duress. St. Stephen, about to be stoned by those who opposed his message, imitated Christ by saying, “Father, do not charge this sin against them.” Peter refused to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord, and asked to be crucified upside down.
But how often we proclaim our faith so poorly that we harm the message of the humble Christ. We flood social media with nasty overreactions to an alleged “war on Christmas” or a politician or celebrity’s opposition to an issue we hold dear. Some even carry signs proclaiming God’s hatred for those for whom he died.
It seems to me that if Christians want to call out somebody in the current culture, the ones we should be calling out are the so-called Christians who can’t seem to proclaim Christ with even a smidgen of love for sinners. Who don’t seem to understand that they are sinners, too. We all still sin, even if it’s not in big, headline-making ways. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.
Christians have the most beautiful truth the world has ever known: that the humble Christ who forgave his enemies on his cross is risen from the dead. That Christ is God and God is Love and every little detail in our lives shines with beauty when we learn his ways and walk with the living Lord.
We are all sent on mission to live it and to tell it: to stand against injustice while we love our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves. To proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ has conquered death.
When we feel opposition against us we must respond as Christ did: loving our enemies and praying for those who seek to destroy us.
We must be prepared to explain our faith, but in the spirit of the gentle Christ, as we’re reminded in 1 Peter 3:15-16:
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.
When religious freedom, or the sanctity of all human life or oppression of any sort calls us to take a stand, the verse that follows that advice is a sobering reminder:
It is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
Sometimes the opposition isn’t so much opposing Christ, as it is the ridiculous, and even hateful way some who call themselves Christians are going about their “mission.”
So do good always. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Pray for those who use you. Confess your sins when you fail. Suffer if you must for doing good, but never return evil for evil.
Because the Lord of love is risen.
He is risen indeed.